It’s not very often that I write about our frugal adventures on the same day that we have them, but The Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet was a bit of an exception.We had such a great time that I wanted to make sure our adventure was fresh in my mind so I didn’t miss any details.
So there we were, little man and I with a day to ourselves. The Mrs. was scheduled to work the night shift, so I decided to get him out of the house for a bit so she could get some rest. Awhile back, The Marine Science Center hosted a Turtle Day with FREE admission but we had other plans. For years I had thought that this location was somehow tied into the Marine Discovery Center of New Smyrna Beach and never realized it was a completely separate entity. After packing a day trip bag full of snacks, diapers and all the essentials, we trekked over to Ponce Inlet for what would be a great afternoon.
I have lived in the area for years, but as an adult had never taken the trip to that side of the barrier island. I had been to Ponce Inlet Lighthouse as a kid on a field trip before, but that was really the extent of my travels. I knew that I had to just head South on A1A and I figured I would find it eventually. After a scenic Saturday drive, I literally reached the end of the road. The Marine Science Center wasn’t difficult to find, but I suppose that I could have asked Siri for directions, but we were in no hurry and sometimes it’s fun to just explore. Located just slightly South East of the lighthouse was our destination.
When you decide to visit the Marine Science Center, you have multiple parking lots to choose from that are both equidistant to the entrance. I chose to park in the lot next to the bird rehabilitation center because I knew we would be heading there next. Before going into the building, I slathered my little guy in sun block and put on his signature Junior Ranger hat and we were off. I don’t quite know why I doused him in the stuff, as the Marine Science Center is mostly indoors but I’m glad I did. I just kept hearing my wife’s voice in my head warning me about the dangers of skin cancer.
As soon as we entered the Marine Science Center, we were greeted by someone who I’m assuming was a staff member. She was very friendly, and liberated my $5 admission fees from my wallet. Of course she just loved our little guy. I swear, he has all the luck the with ladies! Since he’s under 3, he was still free so the admission certainly didn’t break the bank.
Once inside there was quite a bit to do and see. There were volunteers it seemed at every turn and someone always willing to help answer questions or lend a hand. Of course we walked through a gift shop as soon as we entered, but that wasn’t a big deal. They had some nice stuff, that was reasonably priced, but we just skipped right on through. We were lucky enough to get there right at the feeding time of one of the main tanks. My little guy loved seeing the resident eel eat shrimp off a stick! Because of the design of the tank, he was able to really get up close and personal not only with the eel but with all the sea life.
While walking through the Marine Science Center, most of the tanks and habitats were right at eye level for my little one. We have been to zoos and even the Florida Aquarium, but this seemed different somehow. Maybe we went when he was just the right age, but he viewed the tanks with complete amazement as the fish almost appeared to swim right at him. He was so close he kept saying “Hello” to each of the fish. It was pretty amazing to watch.
Centrally located in the middle of the Marine Science Center is a stingray touch tank. The stingrays aren’t trained or anything, but they respond very well if you just put two fingers right on top of the water. Believe it or not, they will swim right up to you and you can literally pet the stingrays! One of the volunteers saw I was trying to help my little guy out and grabbed a stool so he could get over the side of the tank.
There were quite a few tanks to checkout, but what I personally thought was incredible to see first hand was a little bit of sea turtle surgery. I don’t know if they were really doing surgery, but it looked like some folks from the University of Florida were helping out a wounded turtle. There was a window where you could watch them perform procedures. Outside there were quite a few rehabilitation tanks that housed a handful of sea turtles. There wasn’t much to see there, but again my little guy seemed amazed.
After we got our fill of sea creatures, we walked across the parking lot to checkout the bird rehabilitation area. There were a handful of habitats, but we were amazed to see a majestic set of my favorite bird, the bald eagle. Although the pictures didn’t do them justice, it was pretty awe-inspiring. Little man wasn’t as amazed at the birds, but he was still excited to run along the wooden boardwalk.
Overall, the Marine Science Center was a pretty good value. Admission is reasonably priced and there are some great displays and tanks to check out. Please remember that the Marine Science Center isn’t Sea World. This is certainly not a theme park, and doesn’t have a large corporation backing it. It is however an organization that is backed by Volusia County government and is dedicated to saving multiple forms of sea life and bird species focusing on rehabilitation for injured animals. With this type of structure comes a reliance upon volunteers which all seemed friendly. If you just do a walk through, you’ll probably be done in about 15 minutes. If you take the time to read the placards and information you will of course spend more time there, and there are a few feedings that you might be able to see. Because of this, the Marine Science Center isn’t an all day excursion. You may want to couple this adventure with a visit to the park next door, the beach, or even the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and museum. We will certainly be back, but next time with the Mrs. and even little man’s baby brother!
Marine Science Center Details:
|Date(s):||Tu-Sun||Time(s):||10am to 4pm (noon-4pm Sunday)|
|Address:||100 Lighthouse Drive Ponce Inlet, Fl 32127|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||$14|